The Battle Ground Public Schools Board of Directors has approved furloughs affecting some 152 employees resulting from a nearly $10 million budget shortfall anticipated for the 2020-2021 school year, due to a roughly 9-percent drop in enrollment.
The district’s board voted 5-0 to make the reduction, which equates to roughly 60 full-time equivalent positions. The positions are classified staff and include basic education assistants, office and health room assistants, campus security, media technicians, intervention specialists and discipline clerks.
In total, 235 positions were affected by the furloughs, with some staff having multiple positions, a release from the district stated. The reductions come after the district had already temporarily cut 107 positions in August ahead of the school year.
BGPS Superintendent Mark Ross said making the reductions was a difficult decision, recognizing the effect that hundreds of district staff will face with the cuts.
“It's our hope that we can safely return to in-person learning soon, and begin to bring furloughed staff back," Ross said in the release.
The cuts are a result of a projected $9.9 million budget shortfall resulting from decreased enrollment, the district stated. BGPS had its first student count of the school year Sept. 8, according to past information provided by the district, with the release from the district stating enrollment dropped by 1,100, or 9 percent fewer students than initially projected.
The district noted that furloughed staff could be brought back when the district returns to in-person instruction, adding that those receiving benefits will continue to do so until Washington’s state of emergency is lifted. Furloughed staff are also eligible for unemployment benefits, the district stated.
Staff payment and benefits make up about four-fifths of BGPS’ budget, the release stated. The district will have to adjust its expenditures for the 2020-2021 school year due to the reduction in revenue.
"The budget is a plan," BGPS Chief Financial Officer Meagan Hayden said in the release. "It gives us a place to start and a direction. Now that we have more concrete enrollment numbers, we can make more certain adjustments and maintain our fiscal responsibility."
The district noted it has also implemented a hiring freeze since June, with 60 positions including teachers, administrators and classified staff remaining unfilled, allowing for about $6 million in savings.
Hayden noted that reduced utility costs from shuttered buildings and less supplies needed for fewer students also resulted in lower costs. Costs have increased in building up remote learning infrastructure, however, with the district mentioning providing for rural students with internet hotspots being a significant investment. The district also has purchased personal protective equipment and made safety adjustments in anticipation for an eventual return to in-person learning.
The district noted that further layoffs are possible as more financial impacts due to COVID-19 come to light, adding it had a rainy day fund balance should it be required to shore up finances.
There are 685 classified staff positions in the district under normal, in-person learning environments, out of approximately 1,500 positions districtwide.